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Photos: Port Coquitlam school wades into the swamp with 'Shrek'

Ogres, a talking donkey, a dragon and a short prince: Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary delivers on "Shrek" next month at the Terry Fox Theatre in Port Coquitlam. Tickets are now on sale.

Charles Harris wasn’t happy when he saw the first roll-out of the musical Shrek.

The drama teacher at Port Coquitlam’s Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary had travelled to Seattle to view the original musical production, but he wasn’t too impressed.

A few years later, after the stage show that’s based on the 2001 movie starring Mike Myers got reworked for its Broadway run in 2008 and revamped for high schools, Harris caught the updated version at Gleneagle Secondary in Coquitlam, directed by teacher Ashley Freeborn.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Harris remembered. “It had changed substantially.”

Last spring, when he floated ideas with his theatre students about what musical to mount in 2024, “we had a long list of shows but we just kept coming back to this one. I feel like it’s fun and silly and nostalgic and it’s different from our past three shows, which were dark.”

Harris, who shares the same hometown of Scarborough, Ont., as Myers, said it was time to have some laughs in the school’s annual production, which runs March 6 to 9 at the Terry Fox Theatre (1260 Riverwood Gate, Port Coquitlam). The curtain to the fairytale rises at 7 p.m.

Marcos Gerges, who portrays Donkey — a role taken on by Eddie Murphy in the film — said the production checks all the boxes, especially in terms of inclusivity and accessibility.

“Donkey is somebody who wants to have a meaningful connection with people,” the Grade 12 student told the Tri-City News on Monday, Feb. 26, at the high school. “It’s a reminder that no matter how you look on the outside, we all want the same thing: To be together.”

Gerges, who plans to study engineering at the University of Waterloo, is among good company when it comes to Carney’s stage talent. Not only has he performed in external musical theatre programs and choirs for years, but so have his fellow leads: Nicolas Lam (Shrek); Luke Ablett (Lord Farquaad); and Abigail Carino (Princess Fiona), a former Lindbjerg student.

For Lam, in fact, it’s the second time he’s suited up as an ogre for the stage production. The 17-year-old student took on the character two years ago with the P.L.A.Y Society.

Shrek, the future screenwriter said, “is unabashedly able to be himself. He’s playful.”

For Ablett, who has performed with The ACT Arts Centre as well as in Theatre in the Country’s Shawshank Redemption, initially wanted the part of Donkey, but enjoys also playing Lord Farquaad, a prince who sends Shrek to fetch Princess Fiona so he can marry her.

Ablett is on padded knees for each performance as Farquaad is a short man. “I literally get to play someone from a different physical vantage point than everyone else.”

Carino is also relishing her role as the princess. The part, played by Cameron Diaz in the flick, hides herself as an ogre while she falls for Shrek on their journey back.

“Fiona is sweet and cute and loud and rowdy,” said Carino, who plans to study health sciences at SFU. “As she gets to know Shrek, she realizes he’s not superficial, but warm and thoughtful and lovable. I think that’s an example we should all learn from.”

Tickets for Shrek: The Musical are $18 via The Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary show includes 32 in the cast and 25 members in the live orchestra.